Marcelo Pombo in the Age of Neoliberalism

Moving across artisan visualities, discarded materials, and human-animal figures, Marcelo Pombo’s practice displays a tactile and visual repertoire that sculpts its own world and opens the possibility of multiplying the present. The exhibition, Marcelo Pombo: Starting Point to Artisanal Conceptualism at Barro Gallery in New York City, brings together works from the artist’s early career in the 1980s to the present, including a series of pencil and mixed media drawings, and works made with found objects.

Marcelo Pombo, “Mosquitero (Mosquito net)” (1990)

“Cortinita (Little Curtain)” (1993), made of polyester and nylon fabric with green and blue plastic appliqués, hangs at the end of the main room. By its side, “Mosquitero (Mosquito net)” (1990) made of metallic fabric and interwoven with synthetic pearls, also follows Pombo’s exploration of found and disposable objects. Affection and beauty, but also fragility and impermanence, are linked in the careful crafting of these works. Created during the 1990s global rise of neoliberalism, these pieces embellish and praise mundane and discarded objects. This gesture resonates with current feminist movements in Latin America that highlight the importance of undervalued care practices under capitalist logic.

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The trace of woven movements follows all around the space. A group of five mixed-media drawings, made between the years 2022 and 2023, depicts threads that alternate between string plots and loose waves. In two of the Untitled drawings, wefts of fabrics, patches, and colored threads adopt hand-like extremities. These complex and intriguing drawings transform threads and needles into living organisms that are active, but also contentious. 

Marcelo Pombo, “Sin título (Untitled)” (2022)

The pencil works included in The São Paulo Drawings contextualize the artist’s experience in São Paulo in the early 1980s, where he was involved with gay rights activism. In the exhibition catalogue, Pombo describes this experience as the key to his “identification with sexual diversity and counterculture.” This series depicts layered scenes of pleasure, pain, sex, and eroticism, with grotesque, monstrous, abject, human-animal characters, and Disneyland sparkles. Paradisiacal, yet occasionally anchored in natural and urban scenarios that resemble reality, the drawings trigger imaginaries for other worlds and displace the body towards metamorphic entities.

Marcelo Pombo,Sin título (Serie Dibujos de San Pablo)” (1982)

Working on the edge between craft and art, the hand and the needle, bodies and metamorphosis, Pombo’s work sculpts alternative ways of being and interrelating. As the living fabric that weaves itself may suggest, these must-see reunited works advocate for the language of everyday things and the stories of the forgotten.

Artisanal Conceptualism: Starting Point continues at Barro New York (25 Peck Slip, Seaport, Manhattan) through May 20. The exhibition was organized by the gallery.


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